Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Berthier—Maskinongé.
In the last three months there have been many voices raised to illustrate the serious problems people in my constituency are currently experiencing, at the same time, and very appropriately, reminding us of the battles to be fought to ensure that the government grasps the seriousness of the issues and that Quebec comes through this in better shape.
There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the living conditions of many of our fellow citizens. Whoever we are—men, women, seniors, young people, immigrants, people with disabilities—we all aspire to live in a society where our values and choices are respected, and where the ideas of fairness and caring are not just empty words.
The participation of the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges has been invaluable and contributed greatly to the report that the Bloc Québécois presented, “Saisir l'occasion pour le Québec 2010”. The report is available on the Bloc Québécois Internet site. Together, we undertook a crucial effort to give them back their voice in Parliament during prorogation.
It is obvious that the present government has chosen to follow the path laid down in its 2006 economic statement, at the expense of the extremely pressing needs of Quebec.
With this Speech from the Throne, we have too many people falling between the cracks, while forecasters all agree that the economic recovery is weaker in Quebec than in Canada.
The throne speech of the Conservative government is far from perfect. It makes it glaringly obvious that Quebec’s needs will be ignored, once again, even though the Bloc Québécois has developed reasonable proposals that take the current economic situation into account.
Our priority is to help people get through the crisis. We have proposed measures to stimulate job creation and preservation, in particular in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
We have asked that education transfers be restored to 1994 levels, to stimulate the economy, to help Quebec and the provinces and to prepare for the future.
If the Conservative government is truly serious when it says we have to invest in education, we need $800 million for Quebec alone.
When the Conservative government tells us that it will not reduce health and education transfers, it fails to mention that capping equalization payments deprives Quebec of $1 billion in revenue. It has made unilateral cuts and it is determined not to restore the transfers. That is unacceptable.
Quebec was the first province to harmonize its sales tax with the federal tax. What is the real reason why Quebec is being deprived of $2.2 billion? Why is the federal government working so hard to undermine the capacity of the Government of Quebec to help its people, by reducing the financial resources available to it?
The Prime Minister’s statement is quite surprising and contradictory. Members can see this for themselves, by going over what was said by the Bloc Québécois and the government during question period yesterday and today.
I would also add that we have proposed strategic investments, to reduce our dependence on oil, and at the same time to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
I was not surprised to hear what the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges had to say at our various meetings, when they clearly identified the endemic underfunding of regional environmental protection organizations. They are suffering bitterly from the inertia of the Conservative government, which, year after year, has ignored calls for increases in their operating budgets.
Businesses that are keen to innovate environmentally and that develop green energy expertise help to enhance productivity and contribute to the economic recovery. They also help to improve our environmental performance.
Businesses with an environmental focus have significant influence. They create new jobs and support the major shift our society must make in protecting the environment, for all of us and for future generations.
It is not surprising to see that, in the fight against climate change, the Conservatives are continuing to do what they do best, which is nothing. As they did in Copenhagen, they are refusing to eliminate the benefits given the oil companies.
At the very least, we can say they are increasingly moving away from the Kyoto objective, although the Canadian government had committed to reduce its emissions by 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
There is nothing on transportation. The throne speech is silent on the major investment needed in public transit.
Prorogation changed nothing. The Conservative government is steering the same course with its recovery plan, which is inadequate and unsuited to the reality of Quebec.
While growth in Quebec will be slower than in Canada, the government provides no additional measure to stimulate the economy. Where the forestry sector is concerned, the throne speech confirms that forestry companies were left to their own devices, which led to closures and layoffs. Loans and loan guarantees are needed to get the industry back on its feet.
The Conservative government is also continuing to attack culture by trying to make it easier to raise the ceiling on foreign ownership in telecommunications. By saying that the recession is not over, the government is making the right diagnosis, but is not offering the right remedies for Quebec.
Employment insurance reform is more than necessary. The Bloc did great work and was able to gather what I consider very realistic proposals based on what our fellow citizens face when they lose their job. Every day, each of the members on this side of the House meet with people who are unemployed, and the message is clear. What they really need is money in their pockets and in the economy.
The Bloc Québécois has proposed a significant improvement to the plan so as to provide greater access to everyone who loses their job. We believe that, with these changes, each year an additional 148,000 people will have access to EI. The elimination of the waiting period would mean that people would receive their first cheque in less than 14 days. Why not take a new approach to processing applications based on the assumption that the claimants are acting in good faith? That is the approach used in the processing of income tax returns. It is clear that the government has really no intention to make EI more accessible.
The Conservative government has ignored a vital resource in my riding and throughout Quebec. The contribution of community agencies often goes unheralded. In addition to helping out many of the people of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, they too create quality jobs in the region. We cannot consider economic recovery without the community agencies, hence the need to ensure they continue to exist and carry out their mission. Community agencies are known for their considerable ability to adapt and have always been forward thinking and creative in difficult times. It only makes sense for these agencies to demand better financial support so that government objectives tied to the well-being of communities hit by the economic crisis are not compromised.
The Canada Summer Jobs program allows organizations and businesses to hire students for the summer. While the program takes into account local needs and priorities, our various community organizations and businesses have an ever-increasing need to fill positions. While manpower was available, these positions that were not filled could have helped with succession planning in a number of sectors, enhancing employment skills in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area in both the short and long term. Enhancing the Canada summer jobs program would have been an appropriate and tangible way to help young people. We have to support the creation of quality jobs, not ignore well established programs. The government could transfer the administration of the program to Quebec, with full compensation, as previously suggested by the Bloc Québécois.
In this time of fragile recovery, choices have to be made, forcing the government to reassess some priorities based on the money available. The Bloc Québécois will continue to call on the federal government to use the annual surplus from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to supplement its investment in social housing to the tune of 1% of federal expenditures. If the Conservative government had implemented the proposals put forward by the Bloc a long time ago and invested heavily in social housing, we would probably have been better off during the housing crisis. Some families currently spend 60% of the family income on rent, while this percentage used to be much lower.
I have to say a few words about the measures for seniors. The Bloc Québécois proposes that guaranteed income supplement benefits be increased by at least enough to bring them up to the poverty line, this in addition to making these benefits automatic and paying retroactive benefits in full. There are also measures dealing with culture and agriculture.
I will conclude by saying that any enhancements to programs such as the guaranteed income supplement, social housing and employment insurance have been totally ignored by this Conservative government. Measures are needed to help these people, and we make it our priority.